Microsoft’s holding its annual, secretive CEO Summit this week

Last month Microsoft kicked off its first Envision conference for c-level executives from around the world to discuss macro trends at the intersection of business and technology. Satya Nadella’s keynote focused on how companies can embrace digital transformation to grow. While Envision is new, Microsoft has long held conferences with corporate leaders to discuss the future of business and technology. In fact, since 1997 Microsoft has held a CEO summit which over the years has become more and more high profile and further out of the public eye.

Astronaut Scott Kelly at Microsoft Envision

Satya Nadella and Astronaut Scott Kelly at Microsoft Envision

The event takes place at Microsoft’s headquarters and this year’s CEO Summit included renowned names like Warren Buffet and Reed Hastings and CEOs from a diverse mix of industries such as financial institutions like JP Morgan Chase to Campbell Soup and Exxon Mobile.

GeekWire has found out more about this year’s CEO Summit, which is wrapping up today. According to GeekWire’s Monica Nickelsburg, this year’s event includes 130 CEOs from leading companies and featured panel discussions on topics such “Navigating Market Volatility” and “Driving Growth with Technology.”

Nickelsburg goes on to say the event is known for its secrecy because the conference is designed to give corporate leaders a “private and informal” environment to interact and discuss advances in technology and their impact on business and society. Microsoft describes three key purposes of the event are to:

  • Enable an elite group of top-level executives to explore issues around managing global corporations.
  • Drive awareness of new technology megatrends and their impact on business and society.
  • Stimulate private and informal interaction among peers as a means of strengthening professional and personal relationships.

People hear about CEO’s of corporations with market capitalizations of billions upon billions of dollars having secretive meetings, and some might assume there is sipping of brandy while wringing their hands over their collective future plans. But the private nature of the event most likely serves a valuable purpose. It is hard to predict the future, and even more difficult to predict the impacts of technology.

Being able to have a frank and off the record discussions with your peers about these topics gives decision makers the ability to work through their best options without committing to specifics or revealing to competitors which strategies there are about to start seriously dedicating valuable resources towards. If you were responsible for an organization that employs tens of thousands of people and have millions of shareholders, you most likely wouldn’t want a reporter looking over your shoulder either as you try to understand how new technologies are going to force you to make existential and non-reversible decisions. Hopefully, the CEO Summit helps corporations bring new technologies to market quicker in meaningful ways with clear values for consumers.

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What topic do you think should be discussed the most at the CEO Summit?